we heard an interesting presentation from Lake Forest resident Andy Hunt, who, along with his wife, Veronica, is opening the area's first medical marijuana dispensary. The facility will be located in Highland Park.

The dispensary, called Elevele, will provide medical marijuana in the form of buds, concentrates, infused edibles, and topical creams to patients who hold valid registration cards under the state's Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Under the program, patients suffering from one of dozens of qualifying conditions will be able to legally purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks.


Andy explained that the marijuana being dispensed will come from a small number of licensed growers in Illinois. Strains of marijuana are being bred that have less of the psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and more of the medicinal CBD (cannabidiol). This improves their efficacy while limiting their appeal for recreational use. Patients are attracted by the fact that marijuana is a natural substance with far fewer side effects than traditional medications for the debilitating pain of cancer and other medical conditions.

The science on appropriate dosing is lagging behind because legalization of marijuana is relatively recent. Physicians can register patients for the program but do not formally "prescribe" marijuana; patients go to a dispensary like Elevele where trained staff members help them decide what form of marijuana will work best for them and in what dosage. Andy said the usual advice for a new user is to start at a very low dose and increase it if needed. Overdosing is not a concern, as it would require more than a person could actually ingest to be harmful. Like any other strong pain medication, however, patients should not drive or operate machinery while using the drug.

Andy answered questions from members about expected market and profitability of the business, as well as IRS and banking implications. He also spoke of the need to get past the stigma of marijuana use and focus on its safety and efficacy for patients who so often have few good treatment options.